Adam Silver

Silver Expects Return To Normal Next Season

After two straight seasons of COVID-19 disruptions, NBA commissioner Adam Silver expects things to return to normal for 2021/22, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Speaking at his annual All-Star weekend press conference, which was held virtually this year because of the virus, Silver said the league foresees a traditional October start for next season with little or no limits on attendance.

“I’m fairly optimistic, at this point, that we will be able to start on time,” he said. “Roughly half our teams have fans in their arenas right now and, if vaccines continue on the pace they are and they continue to be as effective as they have been against the virus and its variants, we’re hopeful that we’ll have relatively full arenas next season as well.”

Those plans don’t include the overseas trips that several teams usually make during the preseason. Silver said those won’t resume until at least 2022.

Silver also addressed the financial toll that COVID-19 has taken on the league, which had 171 games canceled last season and will lose at least 150 this year. Revenue projections for 2019/20 fell about $1.5 billion short, and similar losses are expected this season.

“Last season and this season has required a significant investment on the part of the team owners,” Silver said. “They accept that. Players will end up taking a reduction in salary this season because they are partners with the league and teams on revenue. League executives, team executives have all taken haircuts on their salary. But I think when we all step back, we all feel very fortunate to be working under these circumstances and my sense is the players feel the same way.”

Silver touched on several other topics during his session with reporters:

  • No “concrete plans” are in place to resume Summer League play this year in Las Vegas, Reynolds notes. The NBA Finals could finish as late as July 22, which is about when the Summer League usually wraps up. “I think we’re going to end up (with) maybe an abbreviated Summer League, mini-camps and other opportunities,” Silver said. “Everything’s on the table now.”
  • Silver has talked to NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts about eliminating the one-and-done rule and allowing 18-year-olds to enter the NBA draft, Reynolds adds. The commissioner indicated the issue could be considered when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated.
  • The NBA won’t require anyone to take the COVID-19 vaccine, but Silver believes “most players” will opt to get it, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Bontemps points out that it’s a way for players to get away from frequent testing and mandatory quarantines. “My hunch is that most players ultimately will choose to get vaccinated,” Silver said. “They have to make personal decisions at the end of the day — and I take that very seriously, and I take concerns very seriously. But my sense is most (players) will, ultimately, decide it is in their interest to get vaccinated.”

COVID-19 Roundup: Silver, Vaccine, Restrictions, Flights, Postponements

The NBA has held discussions about players receiving COVID-19 vaccines in order to influence the general public, and the African-American community in particular, to do the same, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Commissioner Adam Silver hopes the league can set an example and foster the belief that the vaccines are safe and effective.

“Several public health officials — and this is operating state by state right now — have suggested there would be a real public health benefit to getting some very high-profile African Americans vaccinated to demonstrate to the larger community that it is safe and effective,” Silver said.

Right now, NBA athletes are not eligible to receive the vaccines until they become more widely available. It has been suggested that players could volunteer at public distribution centers and receive the vaccine in that setting while encouraging the public to follow suit. Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, has said that numerous players are hesitant about getting the vaccine.

We have more COVID-19 related news:

  • There’s been a mixed reaction to the recently-tightened health and safety protocols, according to Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report. Some players and coaches are resistant to the notion of having little to no contact with the outside world. Others say they have little choice. “If we don’t accept that that’s the way it has to be, we lose out on a lot of things. Our season, our health, our contracts, everything goes downhill if we don’t play by these rules,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
  • In the same article, Highkin noted that 28 of the NBA’s 30 teams have a partnership with Delta Airlines, which has not mandated that its flight crews get tested for COVID-19 despite lobbying from the league’s medical leadership. Delta crew members must wear masks and can’t come within six feet of any NBA personnel, but several teams still refuse to eat on team planes.
  • The league is determined to continue playing despite a rash of postponements due to virus-related issues, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. An unnamed Western Conference executive told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes that resistance to playing in another bubble-like environment made these issues inevitable. “Nobody wanting to go back to a long bubble period of play has put us in this position,” he said. “It is doable but sub-optimal.”

NBA Mulls Expansion But It’s Not “On The Front Burner”

Given the large loss of revenue due to the pandemic, NBA commissioner Adam Silver admits the league is taking the possibility of expansion more seriously, according to USA Today’s Chris Bumbaca.

“It’s sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point,” Silver said. “I’d say it’s caused us to maybe dust off some of the analyses on the economic and competitive impacts of expansion. We’ve been putting a little bit more time into it than we were pre-pandemic. But certainly not to the point that expansion is on the front burner.”

Silver has dismissed expansion in recent years, as ESPN’s Tim Bontemps notes (Twitter link).

The league hasn’t added a team since Charlotte came into the league in 2004. Seattle lost its franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008. Seattle is expected to get heavy consideration for a new franchise if the league expands again.

One of the issues with expansion, according to Silver, is that the league is already struggling with competitive balance.

“It’s not a secret that we don’t have 30 competitive teams at any given time right now when you go into the season, measured by likelihood of ability to win a championship,” he said.

NBA To Expand Active Rosters, Permanently Adopt Coach’s Challenge

The NBA’s Competition Committee has unanimously recommended increasing the number of players who dress for games from 13 to 15 for the 2020/21 season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Additionally, the committee has recommended officially and permanently adopting the coach’s challenge, Charania adds in a separate tweet. An official coach’s challenge has been a long time coming, as it was eyed for the 2019/20 season and then implemented on a one-year trial basis.

The rules regarding coach’s challenges will remain unchanged for the time being. Two suggestions discussion by the Competition Committee included giving teams a second challenge if the first is successful, or allowing teams to get back their timeout after a successful challenge, per Charana.

The NBA’s Board of Governors (all 30 team owners, their representatives, and commissioner Adam Silver) are scheduled to meet on Dec. 17 to approve the changes.

With the season scheduled to begin on Dec. 22, approval of these changes would go into effect less than a week after the governors meet.

NBA Postpones All-Star Weekend In Indianapolis

The NBA and Pacers have postponed All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis, which was originally set to be held from February 12-14 in 2021, the league announced in a press release today.

The events have been re-scheduled for February 16-18, 2024, with the All-Star Game scheduled to commence on February 18. Plans for a revised 2021 All-Star Weekend will be announced at a later date.

“While we are disappointed that the NBA All-Star Game will not take place in Indianapolis in 2021, we are looking forward to the Pacers and the city hosting the game and surrounding events in 2024,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.  “I want to thank [Pacers owner] Herb Simon, Steve Simon, Rick Fuson and the entire Pacers organization as well as the NBA All-Star 2021 Host Committee and the community of Indianapolis for working with us to reschedule our All-Star activities.”

Following 2021, Cleveland is set to host All-Star Weekend in 2022, with Salt Lake City hosting the events in 2023. The 2024 event would mark the second All-Star Game hosted by Indianapolis, with the first being held back in 1985.

“We are excited about the opportunity to bring Indiana the very best All-Star experience in 2024,” Simon said. “The efforts of so many Hoosiers to prepare for NBA All-Star 2021 put us ahead of the game for the hard work to come, and we are so grateful to the NBA for once again recognizing Indianapolis as a city that delivers world-class events.”

And-Ones: Social Justice Board, Boatright, Jazz, Moore

Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns are the players chosen to serve on the league’s Social Justice Coalition Board, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter links).

The NBA and NBPA agreed to create the group to advance equality and social justice after teams walked out of games in late August to protest a police shooting. Commissioner Adam Silver, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, as well as owners Micky Arison, Steve Ballmer, Clay Bennett, Marc Lasry and Vivek Randadive and coaches Lloyd Pierce and Doc Rivers.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Ryan Boatright has signed with Lithuanian club team BC Rytas Vilnius, the team tweets. Boatright, 28, played in Europe last season after spending time in the G League during the 2018/19 season. The former University of Connecticut guard also played in Italy, China and Turkey.
  • The sale price of the Jazz bodes well for the league’s franchise valuations, Bill Shea of The Athletic notes. The team, along with an arena and a couple of minor-league teams, were sold to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion, and the league’s owners are expected to approve the sale. The valuation falls in line with expectations and doesn’t reflect any pandemic discount, Shea continues. It also reinforces the notion that team values keep going up.
  • Former Pacers forward Ben Moore has signed with South East Melbourne Phoenix of Australia’s NBL, according to the team. Moore is expected to join the club for preseason training next month. Moore, who also spent time in the Spurs organization, logged two games with Indiana during the 2017/18 season.

Atlantic Notes: Davis, Kansas City, Hinkie, Adams

Raptors guard Terence Davis has entered a not guilty plea after being charged in New York with two counts of assault, harassment, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal mischief, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. As The Athletic’s Eric Koreen writes, Davis’ girlfriend visited him at a Manhattan hotel and they allegedly got into a verbal argument. Davis allegedly hit his girlfriend in the face, then grabbed the victim’s phone and broke it. His next court date is December 11.

The Raptors issued a statement which read in part that they “take these issues very seriously, and we will fully cooperate and support the League in its investigation of this matter as we work to determine the appropriate next steps for our team.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has made a pitch to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, lobbying to bring the Raptors to his city next season, Jonathan Concool of Basketball News relays. The Raptors may need to move their games out of Canada, much like baseball’s Blue Jays did this season, due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Kansas City has an arena fit for an NBA team and while Lucas insists he’s not trying to get the Toronto franchise to move there permanently, he’s hoping it would be a de facto “test run” to show the league the city is worthy of an NBA franchise, according to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Pickman.
  • Former Sixers executive Sam Hinkie believes his former team made a smart move by hiring Daryl Morey to run their basketball operations, he told ESPN’s Pablo Torre (hat tip to RealGM). “I think it’s great news. He’s not a good hire. He’s a great hire,” he said.  “It’s a really big move for the franchise. For a franchise I care a lot about. With a bunch of people I care a lot about.”
  • Brian Adams is joining Doc Rivers’ Sixers staff, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Adams worked under Rivers for both the Celtics and Clippers before a two-season stint as head coach of the Clippers’ G League team, Agua Caliente.

NBA, NBPA Extend CBA Termination Deadline For Third Time

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have once again agreed to extend the deadline that would allow one side to terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement due to COVID-19, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com.

The decision marks the third of its kind since May, with the new deadline now being October 30. Both sides are in active discussions on what the Collective Bargaining Agreement should include for next season, according to Wojnarowski, who says the possibility of the CBA being terminated remains unlikely.

“Extending is an easy call,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN in August when the sides agreed to extend the deadline for a second time (Twitter link). “If everyone continues to be well-intentioned on how we deal with the economic effects of this virus, we’ll just make the appropriate adjustments and there won’t be a need to terminate the CBA at all.”

Though exact numbers aren’t known, the pandemic has caused significant financial losses for the league this year and beyond. The two sides are discussing a new salary cap for the upcoming campaign based on future financial projections and implications.

It’s unclear when the 2020/21 season could begin, as the league is currently investigating ways to safely bring fans back into arenas for the first time since the pandemic began. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has previously estimated that 40% of the league’s revenue comes from game-night counts.

While the NBA season will occur in some form, a decision also must be reached about the NBA G League. Discussions have been ongoing about how and when the G League could proceed, with several agents telling Hoops Rumors they’ve prioritized placing clients overseas in recent weeks due to the widespread uncertainty.

[RELATED: Uncertainty Surrounds NBA G League’s 2020/21 Season]

The NBA’s current CBA contains a mutual opt-out after the 2022/23 season and extends into the 2023/24 season. The league and union had previously projected a 2020/21 salary cap of $115MM and luxury-tax threshold of $139MM. Some teams fear those numbers could fall by as much as $25-30MM, according to Wojnarowski, though the two sides are expected to reach a compromise to avoid a significant drop.

For fans and officials across the league alike, the importance of the NBA and NBPA configuring a new salary cap mechanism and continuing productive negotiations in the coming weeks is clear.

And-Ones: Adebayo, Olympics, NBA Foundation, Tsai

Although he didn’t make the final 12-man squad that took part in the 2019 World Cup, Heat center Bam Adebayo participated in Team USA’s training camp leading up to that event and received consideration to represent the U.S. in the international competition.

With the Tokyo Olympics on tap for the summer of 2021, however, another national program is hoping to recruit Adebayo away from USA Basketball, according to Colin Udoh of ESPN, who says Nigeria wants to add the big man to its Olympic roster. Adebayo’s father is Nigerian, Udoh notes.

“Having Bam in our national team is a possibility that we are considering as a federation ahead of the 2020 Olympics and beyond,” Nigeria Basketball Federation president Musa Kida said in a statement to ESPN. “We are excited about how far he has gone and what he can achieve in his career with D’Tigers if he chooses to play for Nigeria.”

Nigeria has already earned an Olympic berth and – assuming next season’s schedule allows for it – is expected to feature NBA players such as Josh Okogie, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chimezie Metu, and potentially Spencer Dinwiddie. It remains to be seen if the team will be able to land Adebayo, but he has said in the past that he’d consider Nigeria if asked. He also may be more open to the idea after being cut from last year’s Team USA roster.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA and NBPA issued a joint press release today announcing the board of directors for the NBA Foundation, a new organization dedicated to driving “economic empowerment for Black communities through employment and career advancement.” In addition to Harrison Barnes and Tobias Harris, whose involvement was previously reported, the NBA Foundation’s board of directors will be made up of Adam Silver, Michele Roberts, and four team owners (Gayle Benson, Tony Ressler, Larry Tanenbaum, and Michael Jordan).
  • As we relayed earlier today, China’s CCTV has lifted its year-long ban on NBA broadcasts, citing the league’s role in fighting COVID-19 in China as a primary reason for that decision. NetsDaily suggests Nets owner Joe Tsai may have played a key part in that effort, having sent a $3.7MM donation to China in February to help fight the pandemic.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks lists the trade assets held by all 30 teams, including moveable players, surplus draft picks, and trade exceptions.

Michele Roberts Talks Free Agency, 2020/21 Season, Cap, More

Having rescheduled this year’s draft for November 18, the NBA has yet to officially set a start date for 2020’s free agent period. Speaking to Shams Charania of The Athletic, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts suggested that she thinks free agency will probably start no later than December 1 and that the salary cap and tax figures won’t drop too drastically from what was originally projected.

“We can’t go much beyond (December 1) for (free agency),” Roberts said. “We had a projected BRI (basketball-related income), which I think teams appropriately planned for. I don’t think we can deviate much from where we projected the cap to be.

“It may not reflect what people think is the likely BRI, but since I’m of the view this game is not dead and it will rebound, we can do some things with the cap to allow for a free market and not completely destroy what the teams were expecting the cap to be as they were planning ahead. Frankly, I think that’s going to be one of the easier negotiations, figuring out a cap.”

As Charania writes, Roberts met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Sunday, and the two sides left that meeting confident that they’ll be able to negotiate agreements on the many cap- and CBA-related issues that must be resolved before the new league year and the 2020/21 season begin.

“It’s amazing what needs to be accomplished in the next six weeks, but it has to be done. I feel sooner rather than later,” Roberts said, adding that she doesn’t believe there’s any real chance of a lockout. “… We’re going to resolve this.”

Charania’s Q&A with Roberts is jam-packed with interesting info and quotes, and is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber. Here are a few more of the most notable takeaways from the conversation:

  • Roberts still views January as the “absolute earliest” possible start date for the 2020/21 season. “The latter part of January, February makes sense,” she told Charania. “If it’s later than that, if we have a terrible winter because the virus decides to reassert herself, that’s fine.”
  • Although Roberts and the NBPA share the NBA’s hope that teams can play a full 82-game season in their respective home arenas in 2020/21, she told Charania that the two sides must be “flexible” and “nimble” as it makes plans for next season. “I’m not of the view that we should wait until we think the arenas can open, because this virus, she’s not cooperative at all,” Roberts said.
  • Silver has expressed some reluctance to change the NBA’s permanent calendar as a result of the COVID-related delays, but Roberts sounds more open to that possibility. “Even before COVID happened, there was a conversation about starting our season later. Why compete with football in the fall? Why don’t we start our season around Christmas?” Roberts said to Charania. “It may very well be that our regular schedule is going to change, not so much because of COVID, but because of the ability to experiment. I wouldn’t bet on returning to the old normal.”
  • Faced with the possibility of the NBA’s basketball-related income for next season dipping from $8 billion to something like $6 billion, Roberts acknowledged that maintaining the 51/49 split between players and owners will be tricky. “It comes down to if it’s a $6 billion pie and our owners are entitled to 49%, and they’re already committed to $5 billion in player salaries and fixed costs for example, where’s the rest of their money?” she said. “There’s ways to take that $6 billion and get to their 49%. One of the ways to do it is to slash player salaries. I got to deal with a constituency that, you slash their salaries, this may be for many of my guys on the last two or three years of their careers. Is there a way to deal with that?”
  • Here’s more from Roberts to Charania on the issue of the BRI split: “We’ll never say to the owners: ‘Y’all just going to have to eat the loss.’ Who’s going to do that? They’re not stupid. They’re not just going to say, ‘OK, yeah you’re right, we’re just going to have to lose a couple billion dollars on our own.’  That’s not going to happen. Instead what you say is, ‘Can we figure out a way to manage that so there is no loss, but there isn’t an immediate pay day. Can you withstand some delay in getting your money?’ I have some real life examples of people I know in my life that say that they live paycheck-to-paycheck. And there are other people that can say that they can deal with deferred compensation. You figure it out.”